The Bigness of Small Poems – # 26 in a Series – Patrick Lane – On Christmas Eve – And Still We Sing!

Patrick Lane Reading From His Latest Book - Washita

Patrick Lane Reading From His Latest Book – Washita

God Walks Burning Through Me

When I sleep the birds come to the garden
With their gifts of seeds. Out of ice

last year’s leaves of grass lift into night.
All my songs have been one song.

The palm of my hand and the sole of my foot
remember everything I have forgotten.

The old lantern by the pond has always been there.
Now is the time to light it.

Patrick Lane from The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane, Harbour Publishing, 2011

Since the solstice a few days ago, we here in the Northern hemisphere have begun the slow movement back toward to the sun. Days will lengthen. But in practice, we remain fully locked into the darkest time of the year. Bright light at a premium!

This darkness. This time of year, this time in the world. How do I keep a light burning in face of these darknesses? I come back to Patrick Lane’s poem, again and again; it’s declarations: a stay against darkness and death. The need to sing (All my songs have been one song.) and the need to light the old lantern, the one waiting to be lit. To help bring light into the dark.

So much hope in this small poem. In a cold time, winter time, the birds come still, with their seeds. The tall grasses stand tall in spite of the ice. And once again Lane uses his signature metaphor of song, singing, as his ultimate declaration of his place in the world. His saying to the world: here I am, see me, hear me.

Through his poem Lane keeps his song alive, fashions his own light in the darkness.  In his poem The Beauty Lane says: And still we sing; in his poem  Small elegy for New York he says: The silence of the dead is what we own. It’s why we sing. And in his poem Sooke Potholes he says:  Sometimes a song is all we have. That’s why we must sing it.

All songs are one song. A light in the dark. A cry that says I am here. I live. In spite of all threats to that living. Lane reminds all of us, no matter our beliefs or disbeliefs, to keep singing.. To go to that garden, whatever that metaphor means for you, and find that lantern by the pond. And light it. Especially now, in the dark time of the year.

On this Christmas Eve, 2016, I feel such deep thanks to Patrick Lane, award winning Canadian master poet, for this poem and all the others he has written in his fifty five year writing career. And for his generous mentor-ship of so many poets, including me. He has taught us to sing and keep singing no matter what. To light our lanterns and hold them up, even into the wind.

And to all the poets whose books I have read this year, who have fed me with with their words, thank you. And all the participants in the more than one hundred poetry workshops and retreats I led this year in Victoria, Calgary, Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island and in Texas at Surfside and Houston thank you for your courage, for your words! And I especially thank those that made these workshops and retreats possible: Richard LeSueur, Barbara Pellman, Daniel Scott in Victoria, Liz and Andy Parker in Houston, Donna Box in Surfside,  Donna Friesen in Calgary and the management and staff at Cedars, the Drog and Alcohol Recovery Center, at Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island.

Merry Christmas from Vancouver Island.